Friday, July 27, 2007

Vista, USB and DriveWire, Part 2

My first attempt to get the PC to CoCo connection running via DriveWire on a Windows Vista PC didn't quite work out. For those contemplating the move, here what I've got so far...

You would think I'd know better, but when I ordered up the Serial to USB adapter I went ultra cheap. I purchased a unit made by Prolific out of Taiwan. After hot plugging it, Vista immediately located the correct driver online and loaded it up, without the need to install from CD. Unfortunately, the driver is for XP, not Vista. Still, the ports showed up properly and everything tested out okay.

Next I hooked up the cable that comes with DriveWire to the CoCo. I installed DriveWire onto the PC from a thumbdrive. When run, DriveWire popped up with an error message stating it could not locate the COM ports and quit. Running the server in compatibility modes (I tried Win 95, ME and XP) and with administrator privileges didn't help, alas. Prolific will not be providing Vista drivers, dammit, and is relying on third party vendors to supply them. Serious suckage. The two I was able to locate just crashed the device, and had me spending an hour or so uninstalling and reinstalling shit, so we won't go there.

Then I tried it with the old install I had on my ME machine, copied directly to the thumb drive and then into Vista. That forced DriveWire to fire up (with the old settings) and I was able to manually set it to the COM port selected (I did all tests on COM3 and 4, Vista has hidden COM 1 and 2 somewhere and I can't find 'em... or the Prolific Driver just isn't installing them to begin with... hard to say). This almost worked.

The CoCo, under HDB-DOS, would COPY, BACKUP and load BASIC programs from the server just fine. Unfortunately, it reported an I/O ERROR every time I tried to load a machine language file. Once again back to the compatibility settings, but again to no avail. I did not test it on NitrOS-9, yet.

[Side Note: The compatibility mode in Vista is actually workable and super easy to use and tweak. Other than this, I haven't found anything it won't fix that was built for Win 95 through XP. All my old stuff is working fine on Vista, awaiting it's turn for the full 32-bit Vista treatment. Of course, old DOS stuff won't work at all without an alternate DOS installed, such as DOSBox. For us Tandy fans, DOSBox even emulated Tandy graphics/sound like the old 1000 series!]

I emailed Boisy at Cloud-9 and he was kind enough to make a couple of suggestions and answer questions. (Seriously, Boisy and Mark rock at customer service. Stand behind their products 100%, so buy from these guys without pause.) First, there's no plans for a Vista version of the server, which granted, is asking a bit much. heh. Second, he recommended trying a USB to Serial adapter with the FTDI chipset. He runs DriveWire with such a converter on a Mac and says he's found them to be way more reliable than the Prolific brand.

So that's where I'm at so far. Next week, when there's money in the CoCo-fund again, I'll order up an FTDI chipset serial to USB converter and give that whirl. FTDI just released brand new shiny drivers for Vista, so I'm hopeful. At the very least, I can reasonable eliminate the hardware as the problem. I'll report more when I get it up and running.

Anyone else had success or failure running DriveWire in this manner under Vista? How about on an older machine with serial ports installed? Any thoughts? More to come....

Angel's Luck,

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Sockmaster non-CoCo Fun

While searching out weekend project do while on vacation, and figuring out a Fall project as well (I know I haven't finished the two projects I have going for summer... sheesh!) I stumbled upon this on Instructables:

Both LED projects by our very own Sockmaster! My wife took one look at the fridge project and said "That's awesome! If you touch my fridge I'll kill you." (On the other hand, both our iRobot cleaners died recently, neither of which I was allowed to touch before, so now I get to have a whack at those... bwahahaha!) From reading through it, looks like it could be modified to go somewhere else. Then I got to thinking about how cool it would be to build an LED grid and then hook it up to the CoCo somehow so that you could program it via a PIC to display simple pictures like this... and then promptly realized I wouldn't have the foggiest idea how to go about it. Still, it'd be cool... heh

Anyhow, if you like to Make stuff, be sure to check out Instructables, and in particular Sockmasters contributions. The LED indirect light project is one I've already got several uses for and have started putting together to light bookcases and my wife's makeup stand. Very cool stuff!

Angel's Luck,

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Becker CoCo 3 FPGA Nearly Complete

Exciting news for CoCo fans everywhere! Gary L Becker has nearly completed his implementation of a CoCo 3 in an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array). See it and get the technical details here:


Mr. Becker says he'll be releasing the code to program an FPGA via the GNU General Public License, which means that soon, those inclined will be able to build their own CoCo 3 using this technique. He also posted information to the maltedmedia CoCo list about the board he used. It's available here:

Digilent Inc. - Digital Design Engineer's Source

This opens up a world of possibilities for developing the CoCo in hardware. Very cool stuff. Check it out!

Angel's Luck,

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

CoCo Group on MySpace

Nemo has started a CoCo group on Myspace.

While there's certainly a spam factor on MySpace, I've never had much trouble. Plus it's fun to play with. heh... Only a couple of users so far, so join in!

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

No CoCo news or updates, but I got a new PC! :)

I surfed around CoCo-land a few days ago, and actually for the last few weeks, and just haven't really found anything interesting to write about. And alas, that damn Harry Potter has been eating up all my time of late. Being a bookseller by trade, I suppose I do have to prepare for the biggest fargin' book release in history. But it really cuts into my CoCo time.

On the pimping front, I did manage to get the 6309 socketed in the GlowCo, but it wouldn't fire. Pretty sure I botched a connection, so I'll have to go back through all 40 and figure out which one(s) a goofed. I suck at soldering almost, but not quite as, bad as I do at desoldering. heh. On the other hand, I'm learning loads about the guts of the CoCo and electronics in general. Fun stuff. And handy, too. I wired up a cool LED wand for my HP costume. (Yes, I have to hold a giant party at the store, and yes, I have to go in costume. If you're in Tulsa, stop by! It's going to be a blast). CoCo stuff can lead and lend itself to all sorts of interesting things.

Mostly, though, I've been playing CoCo games. Pretty much anything and everything, which will be great for website updates, if I ever get around to doing that again.

I did buy a new PC, as well. Just a Dell out of the cheapseats, but considering it's the first new PC I've had in many, many moons, it seems pretty sweet to me. Nice big fat widescreen monitor, gobs of hard drive space. I actually like Vista, though I need to spend some time gutting out all the crap MS and Dell loaded on it. I know it has nay sayers, and saying you like an MS product is tantamount to heresy in the CoCo world... heh... but I'm enjoying the hell out of it. The CoCo is partially an MS product, after all.

Alas, it has no floppies (nor anyplace to hook one up) and no serial ports. So that means no DriveWire! Arg! From a modern standpoint, it simplifies the crap out of the thing. The machine is small, quick, and easy to use. From a retro-point of view, it's a nightmare. I suppose it's a good thing, though. I'll get an opportunity to try out how DriveWire works when run through a Serial-to-USB adapter. I'll letcha know how it works out.

Anyhoo... If you have any CoCo News, send it this way. There's not whole lot of action out there at the moment, but there's plenty of stuff in progress from what I can tell. If you'd like me to post an update on your projects, or any other CoCo announcement for that matter, drop a note to

Angel's Luck,

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Lomont does 6309s

Chris Lomont of has obtained a batch of Hitachi 63C09EPs and is offering them up for sale at $20 a piece plus $8 shipping in the U.S. You can order them from his CoCo blog at

This is a great deal because these chips often go for $30 to $50 or more each! The 6309 is a replacement for the CoCo's 6809. The C version of the EP chip is perfect for pimping out a CoCo 3. This was the last revision of the part and can run at 3Mhz. (Although getting a CoCo to actually run at 3Mhz is a bit tricky, from what I've read so far.) The chip was also produced in A and B versions. This is a direct and fully compatible replacement chip for the Motorola 68B09EP that comes with the CoCo 3. The Hitachi part also includes optimizations and extra instructions that can speed up operation, with the right software, even without clocking the chip faster. NitrOS-9 even comes in a 6309 version. Serious soldering/desoldering skills are required to perform this upgrade.

Trivia: Did you know that Commodore made a 6809-based machine?!? Yup. The SuperPET 9000 was a duel processor machine that had both a MOS 6502 and a Motorola 6809 in the same box! Commodore almost got it right. ha!

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